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The Exile’s Tale


ISSUE:  Fall 2005

The country I come from is far to the north:
our wedding dresses are lined with wolf’s fur and the stars
are fixed. We share the dwellings of white bears,
who never wake from their winter sleep,

whose dreams, in the religion of my land, comprise
the human soul. In my country the snow
lies as deep as four men are tall, and the fish
below the ice are the color of meteor-streaks—

it’s said they embody a timeless grief. That place
lies so far north that natural laws are sometimes reversed,
and careless girls have been known to be released
from gravity, to float away and be lost forever

among the waiting constellations. We call this
The Union of Here and There, and though
it brings sorrow to the mothers, the event is a lucky omen,
and is celebrated with a feast lasting one hundred days.

The great art of my land is inscribed on ice, its epics
are recited from the face of the deckle-edged moon.
The sun appears for just one minute of one day
each year—only the merest skin of it breaks

over the surface of our horizon, and the occasion
is pointedly ignored. My land is so far to the north
that our radios pick up nothing but strange, ancient operas
broadcast from the Pleiades, and our language

has no term for cold. For how can you name that which is all
you’ve ever known, the substance from which your words
are cut, in which your shadow resides and your breath
goes wandering—that of which you are built entirely?

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